Cleansing Fire

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The Tudor Truth and Protestant Perpetrations

November 2nd, 2009, Promulgated by Gen


The myths about Queen Mary of England, half-sister of the Protestant Queen, Elizabeth, make one believe that Mary was a decrepit, maniacal, demented leader who took utmost delight in rooting out Protestantism and savagely executing all who stood in her way. Popular literature holds this to be true, and simultaneously extols the apparently countless virtues of Elizabeth I, affectionately called “Queen Bess” by her closest friends.

However, these two realities are, in truth, not realities at all, but the product of “history is written by the winners.” In this case, Queen Bess was the winner. Poor Mary, the loser. People always leap to vilify the Catholic Church, and this has been true since the very first letter of Martin Luther’s seditious 95 Theses. This is just one more instance of this, and an instance too convenient to change with little things called “facts.”

Most articles one will find state that Mary Tudor, aka “Bloody Mary,” had 280 Protestants killed. These same articles state that, combined, the Protestant Tudors (Henry VIII, Edward, Elizabeth) killed nowhere near that number. Well, that is sheer lunacy. Accounts from the time, official accounts, state that in one instance alone, “4000 Catholicks (sic) were killed in Chelsea.” That was under Henry VIII’s reign, tying in with the dissolution of the monasteries, destruction of abbeys etc. It seems to me that this number is somewhat higher than 280.

Another blow to the credibility of Elizabeth’s Protestant Perfection is the fact that, while all accounts (all written by English Protestants, mind you) state with certainty that Mary killed vast numbers of people, no one can agree on how many English Catholics were killed under the reign of Elizabeth I. One official list does not include ANY of the Jesuit priests who were martyred during her reign. Another list of Henry VIII’s executions omits such notables as St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher. Why would the Protestant historians of England do such a thing?

Well, this excerpt from a recent article on the reign of Elizabeth may shed some light on the mentality of the English Protestants of Tudor years, thus showing why people rushed to vilify Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots), calling them “treasonous whores.” Pardon its length, but I found it to be rather interesting and rather pertinent to our discussion of English Catholics of the 16th and 17th Centuries. I will be posting the article in sections over the week.


In the sixteenth century Catholicism, an international religion based in Europe, was reaching out to the New World. It was conducting a vigorous overhaul of its teaching, its organisation and its procedures, to meet the challenge of Protestantism. decrees were to be obeyed by all Catholics, whether they lived in Catholic countries or in countries like England where Protestants were in the ascendant. The experience of Catholics in England in the reign of Elizabeth was therefore shaped not only by events and policies within the country, but also by the policies of the Papacy, of the European Catholic powers and of theologians abroad.

In the five years before Elizabeth’s accession, her sister Mary had made a determined attempt to re-establish Catholicism in her realm, and to participate in the European Catholic Reformation. Although Elizabeth’s accession was peaceful, there was great underlying anxiety and tension, and many unanswered questions. She was expected to restore the Edwardian settlement of religion but she needed to maintain the friendship of both Lutheran and Catholic powers abroad (including the Pope) because England was a small power, and lacked money, ships and a standing army.

The first act of her first Parliament established her supremacy as monarch and supreme governor in all matters spiritual and temporal. The Catholic Bishops had opposed the Act of Supremacy in House of Lords and refused to swear the oath of supremacy incorporated in the Act. They were deprived, imprisoned or allowed to resign. Elizabeth was able to appoint 27 new bishops, many of them men who had actively opposed Mary’s religious policies and who would support her in the House of Lords.

The second act of Elizabeth’s reign laid down the form of public prayer now required in every place of worship. On Sunday June 24 1559 the statutory Book of Common Prayer was first used instead of Mass. All people over the age of 16 were required to show their loyalty and obedience to God and to the Queen by attendance at the Book of Common Prayer service at their parish church on the 77 days of obligation in the year. A shilling fine was levied on those who did not do so. Ministers and churchwardens had to report those who did not attend to the church courts. Those who failed to attend for a month were listed by the constables and reported to the county magistrates. The crown had additional powers to enforce the legislation through proclamations, visitations and special commissions.

The parish was the key agency for winning over the minds and hearts of the people for the reformed religion. Before and after the Reformation, parishioners had to attend services in the parish church throughout their lives. Life began with baptism in the parish church and ended with burial in the parish churchyard, and the public act of Sunday worship was as much part of everybody’s life as the planting and harvesting of crops.

The overwhelming majority of the parish clergy accepted the new order. They were accustomed to change. Yet about 200 priests were deprived of their livings or resigned, though often they continued to live in England and said Mass when and where they could. For 15 years, in 1559-1574, these ‘Marian priests’ were the only Roman Catholic priests in England. There were also parish clergy who stayed in their posts but retained Catholic practices in their church, and for some time traditional Catholic activities continued among the people.

Others went abroad to seek protection and financial support in Spain, Portugal or in Rome, or in France and the Catholic Netherlands. Among them were those who had been particularly prominent in the government of Queen Mary. Some members of the
staff of Oxford University (all clerics at this date) were opposed to the changes and they too went abroad, mainly to Catholic states in the Netherlands. These English Catholics in exile were influential in shaping the future of English Catholicism. Catholics in England were in constant communication with Elizabeth’s leaders and institutions on the continent, despite the efforts of government to prevent priests, books and pious objects coming across the channel and into England.

At first, there was much uncertainty among Catholics. Many lay people were able to put off or blur the choice to support or to oppose the changes in religion. Marian priests debated how far lay people should be called upon to resist by nonattendance at the parish church, and some at least encouraged compromise. The response of individual Catholics to the new religious laws varied greatly. They were not only influenced by religious considerations, but also by local circumstances, the demands of work and such simple but important factors as the distance from the parish church or the character and influence of the local Marian priest or lord of the manor. Some had a deep personal knowledge and belief of the teaching and decrees of the Roman Catholic Church, some clung to a few simple ideas. Some conformed outwardly, but had Mass said secretly at home. Some were Catholics at some stages of their lives and not at others. Some went abroad. All these people were ‘Elizabethan Catholics’. Those who refused to go the Sunday Book of Prayer service were known as recusants.


“Battle-Lines Drawn”NEXT TIME!

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One Response to “The Tudor Truth and Protestant Perpetrations”

  1. avatar Yapollo says:

    A good point. I cannot think of a single party who does not exploit history to their own advantage. As you have shown the Anglicans have altered their early years from the total truth. Yet, every other sect of Christainity (including Catholics) and for that matter every other religon in the world has changed history to its advantage. Currently Islam is doing the altering ("Ishmail is the true heir of Abraham," for example).

    To summarize these rambling thoughts. Your post makes us consider that no one will tell the whole truth (a very human thing to do).

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